Sunday, 29 May 2016
My Story in God's Story ~ Elijah Takes on the Prophets of Baal
Pastor Adam teaches us what it means to remove idols from our lives.

5.29.16 My Story in God’s Story ~ Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

So the worst possible thing that could happen to a person happened to me this past week.  My internet connection went out for three days.

I was without Netflix, my video games, constant access to Google information, Facebook, and so much more.

Of course, I’m kidding, sort of.  Because the first day it was out I was just frustrated, but by the third day, it was a good thing.  This forced fast from the screen was great.  I actually read a book I had been meaning to read.  Amy and I talked more.  The kids seemed not to even miss it.  And life, in general, just had a sense of peace to it.  AND I talked with God much more.

Don’t worry, the internet is back on.

But the question for me now is, will I let it seep back into my life to dominate it in such a way that I miss out on life again?

The real answer is yes and no.

The real and honest answer is, of course I will because all of us have something that quietly and subtly keeps after us and draws us away from the things we know are good and life giving and Godly.  That is part of what it means to be human.

But the real and honest answer can also be no!  No I will be more aware of this now.  I will be more conscious of how the internet and the time I spend on the screen is not always great for my life and relationship with neighbors, family and God.  Once I become aware of something that once had a hold of me without me being aware of it…now something can change.  That is part of what it means to be on this journey toward becoming fully alive in Christ.  We get opportunities to change, grow, deepen our understanding and mature.  So when these opportunities come, take them!

But here is what is also true.  We are in a battle, a fight to make these changes.  If you think that just because you become aware of something that once played a negative role in your life and now you want that to change, that that something will simply just let you go with blessings now that you are aware of it, you are mistaken and naïve.

Because underneath it all, underneath whatever it is that is holding you back, for me it is the games, the technology, the screen time, underneath it all is a battle for my heart and soul.  Christians call our main adversary in this battle Satan, the one who longs to keep me from living the life that God has for me.  And Satan will use anything he can to get you and to keep me from God.  And it is even better if we don’t realize what he is doing!

Underneath our lives is a battle for my soul and your soul and so when change is possible, it is NOT just a matter of saying, “Okay. From now on things will be different in my life.”  Oh no, the change will come only after a battle, a wrestling, and a fight, with the powers of darkness who want to keep you from God.

Now, of course, you also have an ally in this fight.  You have God, you have Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the church to fight with you.  And God always wins, in the end.  Trust me on that one.

So you know the outcome.  That is great, but what I want you to know is even though you know the end of the story you still have to go through the fight.   It is always a fight to make changes.

There is a spiritual battle a soulful fight underneath all the fights we know.   Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 6 verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is the battle underneath all the big wars of the world and the small battles of our souls.

It is also, of course, the real fight underneath the story we read for today, the story of the prophet Elijah battling the prophets and priests of Baal.  Just like it is the real battle beneath all the conflicts we see today, from wars throughout the world, to power hungry leaders, to presidential campaigns and elections, to problems in the church, to struggles at your school, to issues that we face in our culture and society.  All of these things are battles, but underneath them is a deeper battle we all engage and it is a battle against the powers of this dark world.

Today we are going to look at an ancient story from scripture where Elijah fought a dramatic battle and won!  But his story is no different from our story.  For Elijah, just like us, fought a spiritual battle that day, just like we do every day.

Let’s Pray.

Lord dear Lord above, God almighty Lord of love, please look down and see your people through.  Amen.

I am going to put this bluntly to you this morning.  If you are putting your hope in anything, and I mean anything, other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then you are being deceived.  Open your eyes, repent, rend your hearts and turn back to God today.

But for some of us it is more complicated than that.  Let me take you another step deeper down this rabbit hole.  Because most of us are not here this morning to say we don’t believe in God, or we don’t follow Jesus.   No.  Most of us are here today because we do believe…sort of.  But we also don’t believe.  We are of two minds.  We live our lives as if God helps sometimes, but other times we don’t need God.  God is to be sought after in some things, but in others I’ve got it.  God will provide in some cases, but in others I need help not from God.  Does that sound more familiar?  It does to me.

So How is that working for you?  Believing in God sometimes and for somethings, but not everything?  How is that working out for you and those you love?  The answer is:  fine.  Right?  We are getting along.  We are surviving.  We are making it.  But it does hurt sometimes.  And sometimes we move forward a couple of steps only to take a few backward.  And I struggle with not being able to give my whole life to God, because there are so many things I pursue instead.  But over all I’m fine...How about you?

The problem we have is not that we are totally against God or don’t want anything to do with God or have given our lives completely to something else.  The problem most of us faithful, good, church going Christians have, is that we are double minded, we are on the fence, we pursue God and other things to make our lives work.  Right?

Did you catch this same problem in our story for today?  Look again at 1 Kings 18 verse 21 it says this, “Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.”

Eljiah was speaking the truth.  And you know what you do when someone confronts you with the blunt honest truth right?  You kind of hang you head and say nothing.  Yeah, Elijah, that is exactly who we are, it is exactly who the people of God have been, oh I don’t know, since forever, it is our lot in life, it is so normal to be of two opinions that we accept it as right and unchangeable.  We even tell ourselves this, “You are right, but I am human and so I can never fully give my life over to God, so I will just accept my guilt and go on living as I always have been.”  That is what we say to ourselves!

And my friends, when we say this we are believing in a half truth, or a half lie if you want to put it that way.  It is a half truth that we believe in that keeps you and me and everyone else from the full and abundant life in God, the full and abundant life in Jesus.  And so we go through life struggling and burdened and weighed down because we believe that is how it is supposed to be, it is our lot in life.  We go through life simply accepting that we can’t do what God has asked us to do.  And when we accept this, we tend to be double minded—we tend to be people who look to God for somethings and then look elsewhere for the rest.

But it hurts to live this way.  This is what God wants to tell you this morning.  Get this, the Hebrew word in this verse where we read that the people “wavered” between two opinions, other translations say “hesitate,” the word in Hebrew is Pasach, and it means to limp.  The people of God were limping through life as they vacillated between following God and following non-God.  We too are limping through life when we do the same.  Sure we are moving forward, but our giving ourselves sometimes to God and sometimes to other things, means that all of us just sort of shuffle through this life until it is over.  We are limping, we are struggling to move straight.  And Elijah says, how long are you going to keep doing this?

The book of James, in the New Testament says this: 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”  Yikes!  Ouch!  How do we get out of this double minded, on the fence, lukewarm life that we are limping through?

You are in luck!  Because the answer is right here in the story from 1 Kings where Elijah takes on the prophets of Baal.  So let’s take a look at this story.

First thing please note, the battle Elijah takes on is not really with the prophets of Baal.  It is with the powers of darkness who have made the people of Israel be double minded.  They are serving both God and something else.  That is Elijah’s real complaint.  These other gods have been introduced, they are masquerading as help when they are only hindering.  They were introduced by the wives of King Solomon, and then were upheld by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who are both after Elijah and want him dead because Elijah keeps standing up for God.

So, Elijah offers a contest.  A showdown.  And there are going to be some fireworks.  There is going to be a lot of drama and showmanship here.  But that is not the real issue.  The real issue is which God are you going to serve with your whole life?  Because the people have been double minded and they have been serving both God and Baal who is not-God.  The real issue is which God actually listens to your prayers and has the power to do something about it.  Elijah is offering a contest here with the prophets of Baal, he is taking them on 450 to 1, and he wants to see who can get the oxen BBQ fired up and who can’t.  And it is going to be big and dramatic, but here is what Elijah is really after, here is what he says in verse 24, “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

You see, Elijah is really after more than just a fire show, he is after the people’s hearts and souls.  He wants them to see which God is really a God who can listen and respond.

You need to hear this too.  You who are like me, any of us who are limping through life and faith.  You need to ask yourself, which God, which thing that you turn to for help, can actually listen and respond?  Remember my internet went down?  My internet connection failed me and it caused me to see how much of my life was dependent on something that was not God.  Because when my internet connection was cut, it became much more clear to me that my connection with God had not been cut.  My connection with God has not failed me.  Sometimes I don’t pay attention to God sure, but God is always connected to us even when we don’t’feel connected to him.

How about you?  Where do you turn that is other than God and that other thing works for a little bit and then it doesn’t work?  Do I need to list all the things we turn to instead of God?  Probably not.  But if you, were like me this past week, and you don’t see it, you don’t see where you are double mindedly limping through life, ask God.  God will show you.

Then the showdown.  Between the God who does listen and act and the false gods who cannot hear or do anything.

The prophets of Baal start chanting, calling out on their god, they dance, they get worked up, so worked up they start shedding their own blood to make Baal respond to their cries.  And then we read this in verse 29, “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”  This other god, this other something that they had put their hopes in, that they worshipped and followed, had nothing to give.

Then Elijah steps up.  And here is where it just gets good.  He is like, “Watch this. Your god has nothing, my God has everything.”

So Elijah has them put the ox up on the altar with the wood.  But then he says, now grab some water, and pour it on the wood and the ox.  Good.  Now do it again.  Good.  Now do it again.  By this time the altar and wood are just sopping wet, water everywhere.  And now Elijah is about to pray to a God who can listen and act.

Now what is really funny at this point is something you might not know.  But what is really funny is that Baal was worshipped as a god of fire.  So Elijah is really rubbing it in their faces here.  Your “god” of fire has nothing.  Watch my God.  My God is the God who has so much fire that not even drenched offerings stand a chance.

And so Elijah prays, but get this, Elijah’s prayer is not for fire.  Did you catch that?  What is Elijah’s prayer?  It is that the people would know God again.  That is what this has been about all along.  Here is Elijah’s prayer in verse 36, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Elijah wanted God to win the deeper battle that is happening here, a battle not of the things of this world but a spiritual battle for our hearts and souls.

And yes, then the fire fell, everything was burned up and consumed, the people believed and Elijah kills the prophets of Baal and God wins the day!  I’m sure it was astounding!  I wish I could have seen that.

But let’s not get caught up in the spectacle and miss what is really important, because when we do we are already being drawn away from God, once again.  So what was this battle really about again?  It was a battle not over fire, it was a battle for people’s hearts and souls.  That is what Elijah was after.  It is what God was after.  And it is still what God is after today.  God wants you, heart and soul.  Not half of you, or you some of the time when you feel like it, but you, all of you so that God might lead you into life that is really life.

Now, for those of us who already believe in God, those of us who are already on this journey toward more faith and more life, we are also the people to need to be reminded again and again to let go of everything that is not God.  Stop looking for help from those things that can’t hear you or act on your behalf.  No longer, from this day on, shall we put our hopes in anything but God the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For the Lord, He is God, the Lord He is God.  There is no other.

Remember that God loves you and I love you too.  Amen.